Just a wrap up note for your reading pleasure as the dark of winter sets in… The current season is nearly done – last delivery is a week from Friday, as a matter of fact. This is a bit of a what worked, what didn’t work, and what are our plans for next year. Yes, there is always a plan. As a sequential abstract, here are the key points for those who don’t like to read long abstract meandering articles…
1) The combination of global warming causing sudden weird weather excursions (for example a 3 day span in October that bottomed out at 17F here) and the “El Nino/La Nina” baselines have impacted the garden process. After 2022, there were some contingencies and almost everything produced – beans, corn, potatoes and squash were outstanding – and the carrots here at the end of the season are champs.
2) Only having one delivery route was really nice. It bought us a whole extra workday. Unfortunately that workday was consumed with fighting the lack of rain throughout the entire season. It is likely that going ahead there will only be up to 8-10 people who can get delivery, anyone else will need to do farm call.
3) Inflation, especially with the grocery store, hurts the CSA because discretionary income is done. Groceries cost more for the two of us than our first house payment was. Full boxes are a bargain, but if there isn’t any cash to spend on fresh veggies…
4) A full season over the summer is too constraining, especially after a couple of years of being trapped at home by COVID. There were a few additions to the CSA at Labor Day, which looks like a good thing to make standard – that is, a main season that ends the last of September, and a longer “Fall” season might be attractive.
So, here’s the longer version.
The farm requires income to operate. There was serious discussion here about selling it and walking off to some geezer hostel. What happened is that the decision was made to sell some timber from the woods, which made a big difference. The second change has been to sell off the beef cow/calf operation. It was becoming obvious that people that would be willing to purchase a half or a quarter of beef were not financially or preferentially interested. The calculus was “fix the fences, take care of the cows, feed them 750 bales of hay” versus “sell a lot of hay.” Since hay doesn’t break down fences and escape (which happens one or two times a year) and the price of hay has inflated, and can be sold in small lots.. well, no beef, yes hay. As long as Robert survives helping, that is.
Which takes the narrative back to the CSA. Oddly enough, there is some stress involved in trying to pick and deliver about 25 members of veggies. Add in the flowers, boxes that don’t come home, and things get tense a couple of times a week. When scaling up is considered there are some really significant challenges such as a payroll and development of additional areas. All of a sudden an enjoyable garden shared with people who make cool things becomes, well, a pressure job.
So – when 2023 (and 2022, which was a horrible year) are taken into context there seem to be a couple of imperatives – chief of which is that there will be some limits on how many members will be in the CSA – and a very strict limit on delivery. The people who have been in the CSA get priority on being in a delivery group.
Secondly, our helper is going to become essentially a true intern, with an education package and decision making responsibilities. She has been a big help just as a helper, and has continued to increase her knowledge and interest in gardening, enough that she has put in her own garden at her house.
Third, as mentioned above, time which would of been spent messing with bovines needs to be applied to prework in the off season. That is already underway. Postponed preparation is expensive in time and energy to recover. One area of prework that is going to be different is overall planning. It turns out in a prior (life) career there was a place where strategic product development was a sorta-skill. So, the four spreadsheets and a bunch of hard learned lessons need to be package. The poor intern will be using that material as part of her ‘education’ process, of course.
The overall effort moving ahead will be shared to the email list and this posting area on a monthly basis, as usual. And, those of you who have been members in the past or were members this year – Deb and I are very pleased to have established relationships with you!
Doug (and Deb)